Buchanan family of Sowerby


This summary was prepared by Mr Cooper Harding at Thirsk Museum

I think the Buchannan House on the west of Front Street would have been 108. They probably rented it from John Greenhill. The Orchard at the back (Now The Haven and Orchard Dell) was reputed to have medicinal plants, but I personally doubt they were anything more than plants that happened to be a doctor's.


The BUCHANAN family of Sowerby:

John Hamilton BUCHANAN born 1833 in Glasgow studied medicine in Glasgow and graduated MD of University of St. Andrews in 1859. Commenced in practice at Haltwhistle in Northumberland, where he married Margaret Dryden. From there he moved to Staines in Middlesex and finally came north again to Thirsk in 1872 or 1873 (he does not figure in the North Riding Directory for 1872).

Dr. John H. BUCHANAN and his wife had seven children, all boys:

Hugh Dryden BUCHANAN bom at Haltwhistle in 1863
Alexander Edward BUCHANAN born at Haltwhistle in 1865
John Hamilton BUCHANAN (junior) - bom at Haltwhistle in 1867
Walter Isaac BUCHANAN born at Haltwhistle in 1869
William Emest Marshall BUCHANAN bom at Staines in 1872
Angus Ross BUCHANAN born in Thirsk in 1874
Robert Frederick Claud Hamilton BUCHANAN born in Sowerby in 1877

Dr. John BUCHANAN had a distinguished medical career. He was in practice in Thirsk for 33 years (presumably from 1873 until his death in 1906). His Thirsk surgery was in Kirkgate, in the house that is now better known as the "Herriot" surgery, but by 1877 he was living in Sowerby on the west side of Front Street. He was the first medical officer of health to the Thirsk Union, a post which he held until his death. He was a Fellow of the Society of Medical Officers, and one-time President of the Yorkshire branch of that Society. He was a Public Vaccinator and Vice-President of the association of Public Vaccinators of England & Wales. He was one-time president of the York Medical Society, and the first "country" member to hold that office. He was an active member ofthe British Association for the Advancement of Science and was a delegate to conferences in Canada and the USA. He was a prominent Freemason and was appointed Justice of the Peace for the North Riding in 1893.

Dr. BUCHANAN's eldest son, Hugh Dryden BUCHANAN was sent to study medicine in Glasgow, where he qualified in 1883. It seems that he then returned to Thirsk and joined his father's practice, working from the Kirkgate surgery, since he is listed at that address in the 1890 Directory. He died prematurely at the age of thirty. There is a handsome gravestone bearing his name in Sowerby churchyard and there is a memorial window in St. Oswald's Church, carrying the inscription To the glory of God in memory of Hugh Dryden BUCHANAN MB who fell asleep 14 April 1893 a beloved physician

** paragraph about Alexander Edward Buchanan removed because it had confused him with Alexander Buchannan, a Thirsk solicitor. He was unrelated; spelt his surname differently and had no middle name. **

A third son, having the same names as his father (according to the traditional Scots naming pattern) i.e. John Hamilton BUCHANAN, was at boarding school in 1881 with his brothers Alexander and Walter and is mentioned in his father's will of 1900, but has not so far been traced further.

The fourth son, Walter Isaac, studied medicine in Glasgow, qualifying in 1893. It seems likely that he took over the Kirkgate practice following the death of his brother Hugh. The 1909 Directory lists him at the Kirkgate address as Medical Officer of Health to the Rural District Council and Public Vaccinator for the Sutton District of Thirsk Union. He is noted as one of three doctors on the Honorary Medical Staff of the Lambert Memorial Hospital to which his brother Alexander was Secretary. In 1910 he was joined in the practice by another young Scot, Dr. William Gordon MACARTHUR. These two doctors stood a severe professional test in 1912 when there was a serious outbreak of typhoid fever in the district (Norby). Dr. BUCHANAN broke down under the strain and took his own life, after which tragic event the Kirkgate practice passed to Dr. MACARTHUR, who became a well-known and much-loved figure whose career ran for nearly sixty years until his death in 1971. Walter Isaac BUCHANAN has a memorial stone in St. Oswald's churchyard.

Son number five, William Ernest Marshall BUCHANAN, born 1872 during his father's residence at Staines, appears aged nine in the 1881 Census return, is mentioned in the 1900 will, but has not otherwise been traced.

The sixth son, Angus Ross, born 1874, embarked on medical studies at Edinburgh University in 1893, but while still a student, contracted meningitis and died 12th November 1897. He is commemorated on the same memorial in Sowerby churchyard as his brother Hugh Dryden.

The youngest son, Robert Frederick Claud Hamilton BUCHANAN, born 1877, followed the family tradition, studying medicine at Edinburgh. The Medical Register entry notes that he had served in the RAMC and had been Assistant Medical Officer to a hospital in Govan, which suggests that his practice had been in Scotland. He married, however, at Scarborough in 1926. He retired to Kendal in Westmorland (Cumbria) and died in 1962 - the sole apparent survivor of this family dogged by tragic early deaths.

J. Cooper Harding, from information on this family supplied in 1995 by Ms. Sharon BUCHANAN of Castleford, West Yorks.

June 2002